Florida Gators guard Michael Frazier II comfortable and confident in decision to turn pro

Though his decision to leave school early for the 2015 NBA Draft was met with disappointment from fans, Florida Gators junior guard Michael Frazier II feels comfortable and confident that the time was right for him to take the next step in his basketball-playing career.

Frazier, who many believed would remain in college for one more season to hone his skills and help the 2015-16 Gators rebound from the program’s worst campaign in nearly two decades, spoke exclusively with OnlyGators.com on Friday about his decision to leave Florida and try his hand at being a professional.

“I [made the decision] a couple days ago,” he said. “I felt like I had accomplished a lot and had a lot of success, had a positive experience, broke a couple records at Florida. I just felt like it was time for me to take my game to a professional level and see how good I can actually be. I felt I was ready to take that next step.”

Two points shy of reaching 1,000 for his career, Frazier holds two Gators program records: most three-pointers in a game (11 at South Carolina on March 4, 2014) and most consecutive games with a made triple (41). He is also seventh all-time at Florida in three-point field goal percentage (.432), attempts (525) and makes (227).

While Frazier feels like he has performed well for the Gators, he did not take his decision to leave school lightly. He consulted his family and sat down with head coach Billy Donovan to go over his options.

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The Silver Lining for March 24 on Billy Donovan, NBA interest and Florida Gators basketball

You never say ‘never,’ and you never say ‘forever’ either

With the end to another college basketball season comes another offseason of questions about the future of Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan.

A two-time national champion who has led Florida to four Final Fours and 10 SEC titles (six regular season, four tournament) over the last 16 seasons, Donovan has spurned overtures from other programs (Kentucky – twice, NC State, etc.) and the NBA (Orlando Magic) to remain with Gators.

His second stint with Florida – if you consider his six days as Orlando’s coach to be a break of sorts – has included Donovan taking on additional challenges, such as serving as the head coach of USA Basketball’s Under-18 and Under-19 National Teams, to fill the void of not coaching basketball year-round.

Donovan’s international record? Just 19-0 with three gold medals and an average margin of victory of 43.7 points per game. He is returning to coach the U19 team this summer.

But back to that void. Donovan has long stated and never shied away from the fact that he has felt the lure of the NBA – not simply because he wants to test himself on a professional stage (he does) or coach the best athletes in the world (that too) but due to the fact that the NBA is all basketball, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Some of the NBA stuff, as I’ve said before, is intriguing in a lot of ways – the basketball part of it,” Donovan told the Orlando Sentinel last May.

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FOUR BITS: Bonner, Tebow, Noah, Wambach

1 » During an NBA game on Friday, former Florida Gators forward Matt Bonner received an uppercut to the groin courtesy of Boston’s Marcus Smart, who was ejected from the game and subsequently suspended one game by the league. Smart claimed it was unintentional and “just a freak accident,” noting that Bonner likely would’ve gone after him had he thought it to be intentional. Bonner, a 10-year veteran who is averaging 4.0 points and 1.6 boards for the San Antonio Spurs, has yet to discuss the incident.

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With no postseason berth, Florida Gators basketball ends disappointing 2014-15 campaign

One year after earning the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, Florida Gators basketball (16-17) failed to qualify for the postseason as it did not receive a bid to the National Invitation Tournament and will not accept a bid to another event.

Florida (16-17, 8-10 SEC) posted its worst record since 1997-98, head coach Billy Donovan’s second season with the team. The Gators had qualified for the postseason in 17 consecutive years under Donovan, last failing to do so during his inaugural campaign at UF in 1996-97.

The No. 4-ranked strength of schedule and No. 70 RPI were simply not enough to help Florida. In a season filled with injuries and suspensions, ultimately the Gators only have themselves to blame for being in this position, due in large part to their inability to simply put the ball in the hoop.

The 63.7 points per game the Gators scored this season ranked No. 266 nationally and is the team’s lowest average since 1950-51 (62.7).

Florida’s .635 efficiency from the free-throw line (328th nationally) matched the program’s worst since 1992-93, while its .434 field-goal shooting (177th nationally) is the worst since 1995-96 (.426) and the second-lowest in program history.

UF finished 7-11 in games decided by single digits and 2-6 in contests that came down to two points or fewer. The Gators also ended a record of 16 consecutive seasons with 20+ victories, the longest such streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally.

Donovan stands as one of only eight coaches that have ever won 20+ games in 14+ consecutive seasons.

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2015 SEC Tournament Fastbreak: No. 1 Kentucky pulls away from Florida 64-49

(8) Florida Gators basketball (16-17) dropped its third game to the (1) Kentucky Wildcats (32-0) this season, this time in the quarterfinals of the 2015 SEC Tournament on Friday afternoon at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

With the loss, Florida finished below .500 entering the non-conference postseason for the first time since head coach Billy Donovan‘s second season with the program in 1997-98. The Gators also lost to their longtime-rival Wildcats thrice in a single season for the fifth time (1995-96, 2002, 2012).

OnlyGators.com breaks down Friday’s action with eight quick-hitters:

It was over when: A 7-0 run, including four free throws, pushed Kentucky ahead by 14 with under five minutes to play. Donovan got a bench warning for complaining about the uneven officiating, and Florida was unable to fight back from a devastating foul disparity built throughout the contest. UK ended the contest with a 14-2 stretch as UF went 5:09 without a field goal.

“I thought we had some moments. I thought we played very, very well. Certainly we got off to a good start, which was positive. … Statistically, if you look at the game, everything was pretty even,” Donovan said. “The difference in the game was the free throw line. Twenty-three attempts to our five was a huge factor in the game. … If you take away the free throw line, it’s pretty consistent all the way through. Just about every stat’s pretty even. But the one huge drastic difference was the free throw line and that was really, ultimately, the margin in the game.”

Significant stretch: Two Florida turnovers helped fuel a 9-0 run for Kentucky, which gave the Cats an 11-point lead with 14 minutes to play. UF redshirt senior center Jon Horford responded with five straight points to cut his team’s deficit to six, but his the Gators never got within fewer than five over the duration of the contest.

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2015 SEC Tournament Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Kentucky Wildcats – Third time a charm?

Location: Bridgestone Arena – Nashville, Tennessee [Capacity: 19,395]
Time: 1:00 p.m. EDT

TV: SEC Network (Brad Nessler, Sean Farnham, Shannon Spake)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: Watch ESPN app

SiriusXM: 93/190 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(8) FLORIDA GATORS (1) KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Calipari
Record: 16-16 (8-10 SEC) Record: 31-0 (18-0 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida +13.5

THIRD TIME MAY NOT BE A CHARM FOR FLORIDA

Florida has already dropped two games to Kentucky this season – both by significant margins – though that is not to say the Gators were not competitive in each contest.

In a seven-point home loss to UK, UF led for nearly the entire first half and were up two on the nation’s top team with 12:17 left in the game. The contest remained close with the Wildcats holding just a two-point lead with 1:05 to play. From there, the visitors outscored the hosts 7-2 with all seven points coming at the line.

Kentucky’s win in Rupp Arena was more decisive. Florida trailed by just three with 10:30 to play, but UK outscored UF 23-9 over the remainder of the contest as the Gators made just three field goals in that span.

In other words, Florida knows exactly what it is going up against on Friday.

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SEC Tournament Fastbreak: (8) Florida Gators take down (9) Alabama 69-61 in opening game

(8) Florida Gators basketball (16-16) earned a decisive 69-61 victory over the (9) Alabama Crimson Tide (18-14) on Thursday afternoon, advancing to the second round of the 2015 SEC Tournament at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

Florida head coach Billy Donovan improved to 10-0 all-time against former Gators assistant and Alabama head coach Anthony Grant as UF ensured itself a difficult second-round match-up against (1) Kentucky.

OnlyGators.com breaks down Thursday’s action with eight quick-hitters:

It was over when: With Florida’s 11-point lead cut to seven, sophomore point guard Kasey Hill attempted a would-have-been-clutch steal, though Alabama corralled the loose ball and Rodney Cooper drove it to the hoop. Gators redshirt junior forward Alex Murphy stepped in Cooper’s way and drew the offensive foul, sending the Tide’s leading scorer to the bench with five on the afternoon and three minutes left in the game. Redshirt junior F Dorian Finney-Smith drained a three on the ensuing possession, pushing UF’s lead back to 10.

Significant stretch: Finney-Smith and freshman F Devin Robinson drained back-to-back threes, negating an Alabama stretch and giving the Gators a nine-point lead at 49-40 with 12 minutes left. UF would extend that advantage to a game-high 11 points just minutes later. Robinson scored 10 points in the contest, hitting 5-of-6 attempts from the charity stripe.

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Greg Sankey named Mike Slive’s successor as the SEC’s eighth commissioner

Five months after Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive announced that he would retire on July 31, 2015, after 13 years at the helm of the league, the SEC has named Greg Sankey as his replacement.

Sankey, who has also been with the SEC for 13 years after serving as the commissioner of the Southland Conference for seven years, was promoted to executive associate commissioner and chief operating officer of the league in 2012 and was long rumored to be the favorite for the position.

“The universities of the SEC represent the greatest combination of academic and athletic excellence and I am honored to be selected to follow Mike Slive as commissioner of the Southeastern Conference,” Sankey said in a press release. “The SEC is poised to make a difference in the lives of student-athletes for generations to come. We must ensure that the lessons they learn from their achievements in competition and in the classroom translate into success in life after college.”

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